When he was old enough to see over the counter, Tim Godwin used the kitchen as a playroom.
"My mom would point to a cabinet and say, 'OK, you can use anything in here today. Have fun, but don't make a big mess.'
"She just wanted to get me out of her way for a while," Godwin recalled one recent evening, describing his playtime concoctions as "beef bouillon cubes, Worcestershire sauce and a bunch of spices. I'd mix it all up in some hot water. Then we'd throw it away."
In the years since his disposable alchemy, Godwin, 31, has been having fun (and making messes) in the kitchen. Now he gets paid for it.
A native of Fullerton, Godwin's first ambition was to be a certified public accountant. Although he loved to cook--he remembers making "individual Baked Alaskas for my friends" in junior high school--he majored in accounting at Fullerton College and went to work as a buyer at Hughes Aircraft Co. after graduation.
Five years later, after attending numerous cooking classes "on the side," he quit his job, moved to San Francisco and enrolled in the California Culinary Academy--"the ultimate in classes," he said, laughing.
A professional cook for three years, Godwin puts in 40- to 50-hour weeks in the kitchen of a Newport Beach restaurant. In the future, he sees himself "maybe teaching (cooking), maybe consulting (food manufacturers)--something other than slapping out the food day in and day out."
Now that the kitchen is his workroom, Godwin keeps it simple (peanut butter sandwiches) or eats out (most likely at a hamburger joint) when he dines alone. His only strong preference is for fresh foods.
"I can't do frozen foods," he said, shaking his head. "I like to stick to fresh, unprocessed foods. They're cheaper, higher in vitamins and minerals, and since they're not processed, you're not picking up all those extra salts and sugars and gobbledygook they use as preservatives."
On his days off, the Santa Ana resident prepares dinner for his girlfriend--a certain Mary in whose honor he named his Spanish-style "Chicken Maria."
Pamela Marin is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.
3 oranges, squeezed
1 lemon, squeezed
1 lime, squeezed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cumin seed
2 chicken breasts, skinned
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, julienned
1/2 green pepper, julienned
1/2 yellow pepper, julienned
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded (for milder sauce) and julienned
1 carrot, shredded
4 mushrooms, sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 zucchini, shredded
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
In a bowl, mix juice of oranges, lemon and lime (keep 1 tablespoon lime juice for use later). Add 1/2 of minced garlic and 1/2 tablespoon cumin seed. Marinate chicken in mixture for one hour.
While chicken marinates, pour oil into a skillet and saute onion, peppers, carrot, mushrooms and the remaining minced garlic. Cook until onion is clear. Add remaining cumin seed, tomatoes, zucchini and tomato sauce; cook for 3 more minutes. Turn flame to simmer.
Remove chicken from marinade; throw out marinade. Grill, bake or saute chicken for 20 minutes or until cooked.
Add cilantro and tablespoon of lime juice to simmering sauce. Cook for 1 minute.
To serve: Center a bed of rice on a plate. Pour sauce over rice. Place chicken on top of sauce. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream. Serves two.